There are many different types of stress tests including regular stress tests, echo stress tests, and nuclear stress tests. In a regular stress test, EKGs are obtained while exercising. In an echo stress test, ultrasound images of the heart are obtained before and after exercise. In a nuclear stress test, a small dose of radioactive material is injected through an IV and images of the heart are obtained with a special camera. Then the patient either exercises or receives simulated exercise with a medication. A second set of images are taken with the camera.
A stress test shows how your heart works during physical activity. It is used in a variety of situations such as
- Looking for blockages of the heart arteries in patients who have symptoms such as chest pain, pressure, or shortness of breath
- Understanding the prognosis of someone who is already known to have heart disease
- Helping determine the severity of heart valve disease
- Understanding a patient’s cardiac risk if they are to undergo other surgical procedures
- Looking for heart rhythm abnormalities that might be related to exercise.